Thursday June 12, 2008 

My old friend Bindu Madhava prabhu picked me up from the airport and drove me to his home on Long Island. He has a big old wooden house on half an acre of land, its a great place. I also saw another couple of old New York friends there, Romapada Swami and Adarshi prabhu when I arrived.

On the way to the house Bindu took me to a big mall and bought me two pairs of sandals, one Crocs and the other Teva. They are really comfortable and have good arch supports, which for a flat-foot like me is essential. I can’t say that I am overly impressed with regular Crocs-everyone in ISKCON seems to be wearing them; ugly is in! But the ones I got are more traditional open-toed sandals and they are just what I wanted.

Bindu’s car was interesting. It has a talking GPS system. I was rather amazed as he barked out instructions and the map on the screen flashed all the correct turns and distances. It even told us when to turn. Sorry for my ignorance, but I live in Mayapur and I don’t have a car. GPS systems haven’t hit us yet so this was a rather novel item for me.

Bindu has a couple of kids and his house is loaded with gadgets. I guess that’s normal for Americans. For me it was a stark reminder of how fortunate I am to live in a small, simple two bedroom flat in that holiest of all places, Sridhama Mayapur. Beyond a couple of laptops we have practically no gadgets (well, OK, an iPod, an iRiver and a juicer) and our material encumberances are minimal. America is consumer-loka and if you live there long enough, you think its normal. If you are a visitor, the sheer waste of resources is striking. Everything has to be elaborately packaged to compete with the tens of thousands of other items that are offered for our perpetual sense enjoyment. How many things can you actually enjoy?

June 13

Another old and dear friend, Yogesvara prabhu, picked me up and took me to his downtown apartment where I am writing this from. He is a real gentleman, intelligent, talented and unfailingly polite. His place is excellent, on 11th street about 15 mins. walk from 26 2nd Ave. He stayed with me till about 2.15 PM and then he had to go back to his Long Island home for some family friends’ girl’s barmitzvah. He is coming again tomorrow morning and we plan to go the Hayden Planetarium.

 Yogi is keen to help with the media work for the new Mayapur temple and ISKCON in general. He is expert in so many fields-movies, TV shows, books, PR etc. and he just successfully defended his Masters thesis on ‘Engaged Vaisnavism’. He teaches Hinduism courses at Hofstra university and Bhagavadgita from the bhakti point of view at two different yoga studios in the city. He is just the kind of man Srila Prabhupada would be delighted to have working on the TOVP. I am hoping we can get him involved somehow. He took me for a meal to a nearby vegetarian cafe and we had a good talk about the TOVP and many other topics.

 The only disappointment of the day was that Ramesvara prabhu couldn’t make it for our lunch engagement. We had it planned for some weeks and I was really looking forward to it. I haven’t seen him personally since 1986.  Then just before our dinner date, he rang in to apologise because some emergency work item had just come up involving unions and labor disputes and he had to sort it out. When we started to speak he burst into tears, he was so moved to speak to me. His heart is definitely at the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada. I am hoping to see see him at the Ratha-yatra.

26 2nd Ave.

Although I have spoken before at 26 2nd Ave. it was still somehow awesome to  present my seminar “Srila Prabhupada The Living Bhagavatam” there before a packed house of about 50 devotees. Some were even standing out on the street. The place is kept up nicely with lots of original art hanging from the walls that Jadurani did in 1966-67.

I walked over in the early evening and after a brief kirtan I spoke on chanting. I picked it out because one of the items in the seminar was Srila Prabhupada recalling his early days in this building:

December 8, 1975 – Våndävana

Chanting in the early days – Çrémad-Bhägavatam class

Prabhupada recalled how in the early days of ISKCON in New York his neighbors would protest at the morning chanting. “In the beginning, in that Second Avenue 26, when our morning prayer was going on at seven, not very early. And so many other tenants, half-naked, would complain to the landlord. ‘Mr. Judah, what is this going on? What is going on? Stop it! Stop it! Stop!’ So Mr. Judah used to say, ‘No, no, they’ll not stop. I cannot say. You go to the police.’“So sometimes police were coming to stop us, but we did not stop.”This brought a laugh to the assembled devotees.”


We had to finish at 9 PM because the neighbors have some kind of noise restriction on us. I didn’t sell many books, about 8 I think but it was a good program.

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